This paper examines the risks generated by human activity in outer space, exploring the possibility of extending Ulrich Beck’s ‘world risk society’ thesis beyond the globe. Through the use of three case studies looking at (1) the use of nuclear power in space missions, (2) the proliferation of space debris, and (3) proposed space solutions to environmental problems, it argues for the usefulness of some of Beck’s concepts whilst providing a critique of some of his central theoretical assumptions. In particular, the inadequacies of Beck’s accounts of economic power and subjectivity are highlighted throughout the paper, and used to suggest that Beck’s optimism about the emergence of a cosmopolitan public sphere is misplaced. The paper finishes by arguing that Beck’s understanding of a ‘reinvention of politics’ based on the intrusion of risk into everyday life cannot cope with the kinds of risk discussed in the paper. It concludes that it is only through greater recognition of the depth of the economic and psychic structures at work that the politics of risk in outer space can be challenged.
|Number of pages||18|
|Journal||Environment and Planning D: Society and Space|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2013|
- Ulrich Beck
- outer space
- nuclear power
- space debris